Gateway to the Classics: Handbook of Nature Study: Insects by Anna Botsford Comstock
Handbook of Nature Study: Insects by  Anna Botsford Comstock


How To Make an Aquarium

dropcap image HE schoolroom aquarium may be a very simple affair and still be effective. Almost any glass receptacle will do, glass being chosen because of its transparency, so that the life within may be observed. Tumblers, jelly tumblers, fruit jars, butter jars, candy jars and battery jars are all available for aquaria. The tumblers are especially recommended for observing the habits of aquatic insects.

To make an aquarium:

1. Place in the jar a layer of sand an inch or more in depth.

2. In this sand plant the water plants which you find growing under water in a pond or stream; the plants most available are Water-weed, Bladderwort, Water Starwort, Watercress, Stoneworts, Frog-spittle or Water-silk.

3. Place on top a layer of small stones or gravel; this is to hold the plants in place.

4. Tip the jar a little and pour in very gently at one side water taken from a pond or stream. Fill the jar to within two or three inches of the top; if it be a jelly tumbler, fill to within an inch of the top.

5. Let it settle.

6. Place it in a window which does not get too direct sunlight. A north window is the best place; if there is no north window to the school room, place it far enough at one side of some other window so that it will not receive too much sunlight.

7. To get living creatures for the aquarium use a dip-net, which is made like a shallow, insect net.

8. Dip deep into the edges of the pond and be sure to bring up some of the leaves and mud, for it is in these that the little water animals live.

9. As fast as dipped up, these should be placed in a pail of water, so that they may be carried to the schoolroom.

10. In introducing the water animals into the aquarium it is well to put but a few in each jar.

The care of the aquarium—Care should be taken to preserve the plant life in the aquarium, as the plants are necessary to the life of the animals. They not only supply the food, but they give off oxygen which the animals need for breathing, and they also take up from the water the poisonous carbonic acid gas given off from the bodies of the animals.

1. The aquarium should be kept where there is a free circulation of air.

2. If necessary to cover the aquarium to prevent the insects, like the water boatmen and water beetles, from escaping, tie over it a bit of mosquito netting, or lay upon the top a little square of wire netting used for window screens.

3. The temperature should be kept rather cool; it is better that the water of the aquarium should not be warmer than 50 deg. Fahrenheit, but this is not always possible in the schoolroom.

4. If any insects or animals die in the aquarium they should be removed at once, as the decomposing bodies render the water foul.

5. To feed the animals that live upon other animals take a bit of raw beef, tie a string to it and drop it in, leaving the free end of the string outside of the jar. After it has been in one day, pull it out; for if it remains longer it will make the water foul.

6. As the water evaporates it should be replaced with water from the pond.

References—The Fresh Water Aquarium, Eggeling and Ehrenberg; Insect Life, Comstock; The Brook Book, Miller; Nature Study and Life, Hodge; The Home Aquarium, How to Care for It, Eugene Smith.


A humble, but useful, aquarium.


An inexpensive and durable aquarium.

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